After St. Louis, we drove across the southern parts of Illinois and Indiana to Charlestown State Park in Indiana. Our tourist destination was Louisville, Kentucky for bourbon tasting on the Bourbon Trail. Although Google did her best to lose us by directing us to drive through private property yet again (we refer to Google Maps as her because of the female voice), we arrived at the state park along the Ohio River. We got the trailer situated and drove into Louisville for our first bourbon experience.

The scariest rest stop I’ve ever seen. Just look at that dark, foreboding forest that screams kill me and leave my body here never to be found.

We started at Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distillery, established in 1783. We took the factory tour and learned what makes a whiskey bourbon. For a whiskey to be labeled bourbon, it must:

  • Be produced in the United States
  • Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  • Aged in new, charred oak containers
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)
  • Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof
Scenes from the movie about the history of Evan Williams
Historical reenactment
Four bourbon samples and a bit of water to make the bourbon “bloom”

I asked our bourbon host, Charles, where he recommended we eat, and he suggested Dish on Market instead of one of the large trendy places like Guy Fieri’s. It was a good choice and gave Shawn the opportunity to try a flight of high end bourbons.

Barrel-aged old fashioned and bourbon flight
Shrimp & Grits

The next day, we headed toward Lexington to visit Buffalo Trace Distillery, another recommendation from Charles. While Evan Williams holds the claim of first distillery in Kentucky, Buffalo Trace boasts being the distillery with the longest continuous production. While all the other distilleries were closed during Prohibition, Buffalo Trace remained in production for “medicinal” purposes.

On the grounds of the distillery, they have numerous warehouses that hold the barrels while they are aging the bourbon. A few interesting facts that we learned included: the distillery is taxed every year on the barrel, and as the barrels age, a large percentage of the liquid evaporates. This explains why aged bourbons are so expensive. They are taxed longer and there is less product to bottle.

The liquors we sampled
Hand labeling Blanton’s bourbon bottles
Moving barrels from the warehouse via rail tracks
Interesting purple flower bush
They’re not berries

Our last unplanned stop was at Three Boys Farm Distillery. Shawn saw the sign on the road and looked up their website which indicated “text Ross” for a tour. We sampled three bourbons directly from the barrels. Our bourbon host (not Ross) had the lazy drawl and bedroom eyes of Matthew McConaughey, but he was not very forthcoming with information and seemed a bit bored that we were there. If we had been willing to pay $145, he would have bottled the bourbon straight from the barrel of our choice.

Even though we’re not big baseball fans, we had to stop by Louisville Slugger for a factory tour. We weren’t allowed to take pictures within the factory, but it was fun seeing the bats being shaped on the lathe and labeled and sealed by hand.

The giant bat outside the factory
Maple, birch and ash billets
Go Dogs!

We enjoyed a late lunch at Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ. Shawn had smoked meatloaf, and I had brisket grilled cheese with sides of mac & cheese, baked beans and cornbread. The brisket in this part of the country is sliced very thin unlike the thick slabs we’ve had in California, but somehow they manage to keep it moist.

We headed back to our campsite and had time for a quick hike before dark. The woods are very different than I’m used to. The hard wood trees drop leaves on the forest floor instead of pine needles.

Daily Stats

  • Miles driven: 269
  • Listening to: An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
  • Bourbons sampled: 11 plus one bourbon creme and one vodka
  • Bourbon balls sampled: 2 varieties
  • Charlestown State Park: 4 stars
  • Dish On Market: 4.5 stars
  • Momma Mustard’s: 3.5 stars
Hot & muggy